Category: Emerging Leaders


                                                Leadership in Chaos                                                                    Photo Credit-courtesy of Scoop.it

Texas Church Shooting Leadership Lessons

As a generation Xer, there used to be a time when as an elementary school girl, I walked 10 miles from home to school, in the busy streets of a major city, walked back home, stopped by on the way home, bought a snack from my favorite snack shop with my money in my pocket for snacks, and got myself home with my own key to the house. I enjoyed the freedom and safety of learning, experiences and autonomy, as I grew in a very metropolitan and crowded city. Now, as a mom, I would not dream of having my children at 8 and 10 walk outside past our own street. We drive to most places during the week for school and extracurricular activities, and on weekends for events and fun outings. Driving, in my car gives me a sense of safety and security. However in reality, this is just an illusion. The truth is, the world has changed. Life has changed.   And in spite of the advents of technology, flooding of products from all over the globe, going well beyond meeting our basic needs, safety is in fact just an illusion.

 

Last weekend, on Sunday Nov. 5th, there was yet another horrific event that took place in our country. A shooting at a Texas church, killing 26 people, as young as 5 years old. That could have been any of us. There was a time where, churches similar to schools, were considered a sanctuary for people. Not anymore. Chaos is all around us, and as much as we want to ignore, blame, and shout at it, it is inevitable. It is in our homes. It is at our place of work. And it is even at our “sanctuaries”.

On a daily basis, the global economy, the growth of the population, and technology among many other variables continue to change the way our daily businesses are conducted.

Evidence of chaos is even more visible in the world of commerce and business as venture capitals, leverage buyouts and government bailouts continue to become the norm and layoffs ensue. There was a time when businesses could succeed as stable, bureaucratic and regulating institutions. The didactic, structure oriented processes were considered a key to performance and success. Involuntary Turnover and job loss were uncommon phenomenon.  In fact, the belief in order and structure crated the false notion that reorganizations were the key to productivity. Up to today, reorganizations are still very popular with the C-Suite. It has been found that nearly half of all CEO’s execute a reorganization within the first two years they join an organization. Regardless of the “reason”, these reorganzations are usually about immense structural changes in hope for better performance. In reality, according to a Bain & Co. study, out of the 57 reorganizations they studied, only one-third produced results; a profound mistake to completely buy-in to the idea that there is a link between structure and performance.

 

Beginnings of Chaos

Chaos Theory, which was most fully explored and recognized during the mid-to-late 1980s, has the premise that systems sometimes reside in chaos, they are constantly moving, but without any predictability or direction. According to Margaret J. Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science, “Chaos is the final state in a system’s movement away from order.” According to her, when a system does reach that point, the parts of a system are manifest as turbulence, totally lacking in direction or meaning.

When Chaos Theory was first implemented in to businesses in various forms, organization management also gave way to organization management. Agile methodologies were introduced as a way for modern corporations to be able to respond as markets expanded and technologies evolved.  And the evolution of high-functioning teams gave life to Members of effective teams to frequently recreate their roles depending on the needs of the team at a given point.

Embracing change therefore does not mean to necessarily try and predict every possibility and structure the organization accordingly to reach order. It is to lead with the idea that change is constant and chaos is the way of life.

Leadership Redone

When it comes to leadership, as a Human Capital Partner to Fortune companies and Leadership Coach to the C-Suite, I have worked with organizations to recognize that leadership in today’s world, is a game of balance between innovation and Emotional Intelligence, not a commandment as many see it. During times of turbulence, change, and chaos, I have often times seen more control, more structure, and more top down decision-making; a very fear-based thought process that usually ends in disengagement by followers. In today’s economy, leadership of organizations is no longer the management of day-to-day operations. It is rather, seeing the functioning of the organization as a unified system. Therefore rather than dissecting for causes in the organization for organizational problems, according to chaos theory, organizational patterns can be studies to find behavior patterns.

In working with organizations and leaders, I first start by having a value-based conversation around respect.  What is respectable to one defines their values, motivations and aspriations.  That provides a muriad of data with the identification of Pillars of Safety which is a guided exercise I practice to get at the heart of many automatic behaviors.  The assessment of  emotional intelligence ; Identifying emotions and uncovering blockages in thinking and behavior. In embracing change and innovation, rather than a hierarchical, process oriented dynamics, I help him or her to view their role as a catalyst and a support, rather than a perfect, all mighty and in control responsible party. We then drive toward allowing talent and employees to lead with their competencies, with autonomy, functionality, support and 360 degree feedback and effective communication. We therefore, allow the system to naturally organize itself.

 

 

Top Ten (10) Tips on Leadership In Times of  Unpredictability and Chaos

 

  1. Check your Emotions at the Door. One of the common misunderstandings about leadership is lack of fear. But if the opposite of fear is courage, we know courage is not the absence of fear, it is choosing to act with love in spite of fear. The reason one of the pillars of Emotional Intelligence is Self-awareness is largely because Emotion Regulation is a must part of not only living a healthy life, but difference making, business leader in the 21st century. Not admitting to fear, means not accepting yourself as a human being and that creates fear in your team. If you acknowledge your fear but show fortitude and strategy you are inviting trust and courage and unity. 
  2. Make aware rather than frighten. Yes, in uncertain times people do need communication of information, otherwise, they will assume and gossip. However, there are two types of information, the kind they can do something about, and the kind they cannot. Using the advents of neuroscience I work with my  leaders to do just that.  Rather than invoking fear, in engaging your team and activating their sense of empowerment, it is pertinent to Ignite the reward centers of the brain by tapping into the belongingness need. As human-beings if we feel scared, and insecure, we will feel hesitant to take action. But if we are made aware, we will be empowered and courageous.
  3. Talk less, do more. Often times, leadership becomes the generator of opinions and not the generator of action. Input that doesn’t add value, is not leadership. Instead it’s best to resort to responsibility. Sometimes resources may not be readily available or training may not be sufficient. Taking ownership and preparing to accept the challenge is a great tool for trust building and encouragement from a leader. Our brain’s frontal cortex associated with problem solving and decision-making has the capability to dissipate fear toward best performance, if we rise above the reptilian and the mammalian parts of the brain associated with survival.
  4. Mobilize and utilize. We have all heard of the phrase “Analysis paralysis”. There are so many different ways we problem-solve, process information, communicate,  etc.  The power of a team is in it’s synergy and ability to utilize all of it diverse talent.  There are the communicators, analyzers, and creatives etc.  For example, creative and analytic types in teams, will feel more energized, hopeful and joyful when they can do just that, analyze. Rather than get busy without knowledge. Utilize this group to team up to gain knowledge and insight quickly.  Google did just that and look where they are today.  Strategize and Make a Move. Different personalities have a propensity for analyzing decisions more than others and prefer to delay decisions as much as possible. Learning when not to postpone decisions, when you are naturally aiming for perfection, and waiting for additional information, could mean failure. It takes an opposite personality or a coach to help you bounce off ideas so you can decide to do what you need to do with what you have, and don’t look back. Indecisiveness is the surest way to undermine credibility. 
  5. Lead with Inclusion, not diversity. During the past centuries, we have gone from segregation, to diversity but not necessarily to inclusion. Diversity seems like a forced mentality. A thought that by its mere existence casts doubt on reality. Diversity is all around us. We need only to learn to be inclusive. Leading with inclusion would invite different thinking, culture, skills, experience and innovation rather than simply standardization of the same old.
  6. Be a Connector. A leader takes the time to get to know the talent in the organization. Walking among the people and learning about their world. Communication failure, is most often the key to organization effectiveness and disengagement. So elimination of silo’s and physical space and internal networking opportunities throughout is they key to building connections among people and leadership. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes connectors as “multipliers who help create relationships between people”.
  7. Innovate, Don’t Dictate.  In uncertain times, arrival of new information often times means a challenge to the previous plan. Keeping an open mind to problem-solve with all levels of the team, encouraging creativity and innovation, rather than added control or measures to increase certainty will allow room for adoption of better solutions as they arise. The goal is to move forward at the best pace possible.
  8. Be an example of team not just a leader of it. During chaos, servant-leadership is the only leadership model that truly inspires a team, because it demonstrates that we are all in it together. To do this, you must stay consistent no matter how big or small the acts or tasks. That means no special treatment.
  9. Be Humble and honest. Much of the old leadership mentality is “no apologies”, “not admitting to mistakes” and certainly no “I don’t knows”. This is not confidence it is actually fear. Fear of not being adequate, not being taken seriously. In truth, people trust those leaders that they can trust, not those who are know it alls. Nobody knows all things, all of the time. So let the ego out the door, and be honest. If you don’t know something, tell them. The thing about ego is it goes both ways. You act with fear, you get fear in return; in reflection, acting based on ego, your team will not come to you with what they know or don’t know.

 

Conclusion

Following the Sunday mass shooting at the church, in response to President Trump’s tweet in that the shooting is a “mental health problem”, Puente said firearms restrictions for people with a history of domestic violence, substance abuse disorders and other high-risk groups have been shown to reduce gun violence. He went on to say that “Calling this shooting a ‘mental health problem’ distracts our nation’s leaders from developing policies and legislation that would focus on preventing gun violence through a scientific, public health approach.” Both suggesting point to control, regulation and division. Neither is actionable. Neither is working with chaos. Both comments are divisive as one blames the mentally ill, and the other Gun owners. Meanwhile the chaos continues to consistently move forward. Don’t we owe the victims and their loved ones more than simple statements of “the problem”?

One of the most influential business writers of the 1980s and 1990s, Tom Peters in his book Thriving on Chaos wrote “we live in a world turned upside down, and survival depends on embracing revolution.”

The most successful leaders understand that it is not the organization or the individual who is most important, but the relationship between the two. Guns are not going anywhere and neither is mental illness. Working as a society to accept both entities and learn to innovatively work with both is going with the times. Rather than constant blaming, accusing, and attacking, we can begin by accepting diversity of thought, culture, skills, experience and yes mental health. Design conversations around all layers of the population, and all groups. In truth, by doubting, blaming, and assuming members of society, we are creating more of the same and manifesting more fear, more pain and more threat. Hope is only in acceptance and in inclusion and that is what a leader brings to the table.

 

 

 

                      Photo credit: Getty Images

Privacy is a concept very well confused in our culture today.  In an era where almost all of our electronic devices track our everyday move, our psychographics and socio-economic decisions give life to Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to sell the next big thing, without our permission, and social media networks know where we go and what we do and with whom we do it with every minute of the day, other aspects of our lives, our trials and tribulations, and struggles which are simply part of the human condition such as unemployment, depression, disability and mental illness are considered private issues.  Well, are they a matter of privacy or are they more a matter of not wanting to deal with real agendas?

In an effort to respect employees’ privacy, many employers avoid employees’ mental health concerns.  However, like it or not, these issues have a tendency to make their way into the workplace. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 43.8 million adults in the United States experience mental illness in any given year.

Yes, there are Employment Laws and Fair Labor Standards, but in a world where yesterday’s hero is today’s villain and due to hopelessness and limited Emotional Intelligence, a majority fall in to co-dependant status, villains can easily pose as leaders and saviors.  So what is the real solution?

 

Even ignoring the lack of support and clear danger to the quality of life of the employee, purely calculating the costs it is clear that employers can’t afford to ignore mental health issues in the workplace.

 

Last Thursday, as the New York Times reported that Harvey Weinstein, the face of the entertainment company had been accused of sexually harassing women, both inside and outside of his company for over nearly three decades, it was yet another wake up call that mental disorder is not necessarily a silent killer. One might ask, how sexual harassment is a mental disorder. Well, according to the Wikipedia definitionSexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors”. In a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Finnish researchers have recently discovered that bullying could result in serious mental disorders. While victims of bullying are more likely to develop anxiety disorders, or already suffer from it, the bullies themselves were at higher risk for having or developing antisocial personality disorder. Therefore it is fair to say that sexual harassment has its roots in perceived power or lack thereof. And as opposed to popular belief, recognition of mental disorder in morally questionable individuals who we may not approve of such as Donald Trump, does not reinforce the negative stigmas associated mental illness, but rather adds to the negative stigmas.

 

The World Health Organization and the National Business Group on Health indicate that mental and behavioral health conditions have direct costs as much as $100 billion for employers. And when one factors in indirect costs, such as loss of productivity and the influx of disability claims, you are now faced with a major disaster.  

 

At first Weinstein had announced that he would take a leave of absence.  However, then he began fighting and contesting the allegations. It took three directors to resign, before the company board fired the founder on Sunday.

 

The trouble here is two-fold: Weinstein was a founder and top executive, and hence a decision-maker.    However what happens when we turn a blind eye to a culture gone wrong is that, as employees, the same infrastructure we hoped would be supported by our attempts at passivity, would turn around to disintegrate, but this time without notice.  

While as employers playing mental health professionals is not wise, providing clear boundary setting education to the entire employee population on mental health issues and the importance of clearly defined boundaries is expected.

An employer’s efforts to bring to light realities, helps destigmatize mental illness and allows others to come out of the shadows and seek treatment.   employees recognize its prevalence can help employees feel more comfortable acknowledging that they’re struggling in some way. 

 

While In addition to costs, employers have a legal obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to refrain from discriminating against individuals with mental illness, they are also obligated to abide by the same guidelines in treating employees vs. founders.  Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there are two types of sexual harassment: a) quid pro quo and 2) hostile work environment. Sexual harassment can be physical and psychological in nature. It’s important to note that it is the aggregate of the incidents and not a single event that constitutes harassment and work hours and location don’t have a bearing on this definition.  

Langelan describes four different classes of harassers.

  • Predatory harasser This is a harasser who gets sexual thrills from humiliating others. The goal of this harasser is to just to see how targets respond. No response could even lead to rape.
  • Dominance harasser is the most common type, and usually is for the purposes of an ego boost.  
  • Strategic or territorial harassers are those who harasss to remain dominant or keep privileges.
  • Street harasser: This is verbal and/or nonverbal behavior, with frequent appearance in public to embarrass.

 

 

Overall, the culture of an organization is defined by its leadership and if leadership does not walk the talk, then there is no atmosphere of trust or a moral code, and as a result, there are no boundaries or expectations that employees can rely on. In a 2012 study of male adolescent American football players, “the strongest predictor [of bullying] was the perception of whether the most influential male in a player’s life would approve of the bullying behavior”.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.19.22 PMIn a previous LinkedIn post, we had discussed that as a culture, we are apparently not the only people duped by narcissistic leaders. “While narcissists may look like good leaders, according to a new study by University of Amsterdam, they’re actually really bad at leading”. As published in the journal of Psychological Science, “because narcissistic individuals are particularly skilled at radiating an image of a prototypically effective leader, they tend to emerge as leaders in group settings. But despite people’s positive perceptions of narcissists, when it comes to performance, narcissists actually inhibit information exchange between group members and thereby negatively affect group performance.”

 

In today’s blog considering the state of our nation in both business and political management, weScreen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.19.37 PM want to add to that yet another of the dark triad traits; Machiavellianism “It is much safer to be feared than loved,” writes Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince, his classic 16th-century treatise exemplifying manipulation and occasional cruelty as the best means to power. In the same spirit we have had many more recent business leaders, philosophers and believer alike within a 500 year span, such as Jack Welsh, whom in his Four type Model of Managers states: “Type 4 (the manger who delivers results but does not live by values espoused by the organization) is the toughest call of all: the manager who doesn’t share the values, but delivers the numbers. This type is the toughest to part with because organizations always want to deliver and to let someone go who gets the job done is yet another unnatural act. But we have to remove these Type 4s because they have the power, by themselves, to destroy the open, informal, trust-based culture we need to win today and tomorrow”.

 

Robert Greene’s national bestseller, The 48 Laws of Power, make Machiavelli’s’ ideas seem like child’s play. Greene’s book, is pure Machiavelli. Here are a few of his 48 laws:

Law 3, Conceal Your Intentions.

Law 6, Court Attention at All Costs.

Law 12, Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victims.

Law 15, Crush Your Enemy Totally.

Law 18, Keep Others in Suspended Terror.

 

Furthermore, a 2004 Harvard Business Review article by George Stalk Jr. and Rob Lachenauer states: “winners in business play rough and don’t apologize for it”. In fact, in their article titled Hardball: Five killer strategies for trouncing the competition, the authors make reference to three Organizations: Dell, Toyota and Walmart, clearly stating that the way they have achieved their success has not been “quite kosher”. However, nevertheless they stay on their course supporting their claim that in order to be the epitome of corporate success, organizations have to play “hardball” like the trio above.

 

Several decades ago, as a leader of our nation, Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy was famously to “speak softly and carry a big stick“. Which technically, refers to practicing strategy and diplomacy rather than showing your hand at all times. Today, Trump’s is “carry that big stick and be very loud’. Meaning, no need to beat around the bush, but rather be controversial and unaffected by criticism, get to the point, show them you mean business and win at all costs. Guided by centuries of Machiavellian advice like the above, many have come to believe that attainment of power requires force, deception, manipulation, and coercion. In fact, a larger percentage of our society assumes that positions of power demand this kind of conduct; that to run effectively, we need leaders who are willing and able to use power abusively.

 

 

Well, a new science of power would reveal that this is not further from the truth. In fact, the use of power is most effective, when it’s used responsibly. Individual(s) whom are accustomed to being connected and engaged with the needs and interests of others, are most trusted and hence most influential. The many years of research studying power and leadership suggests that empathy and Emotional Intelligence are vastly more important to the attainment and exercise of power than force, deception, or terror. This research debunks myths that misinform about what constitutes real power, and how it is really obtained and used.

 

So what is it about the position of power that becomes all about winning and not necessarily about achieving the greater good? Studies show that once people assume positions of power, they’re likely to act more selfishly, impulsively, and aggressively, and they have a harder time seeing the world from other people’s points of view. For instance, studies have found that people given power in experiments are more likely to rely on stereotypes when judging others, and they pay less attention to the characteristics that define those other people as individuals. Predisposed to stereotype, they also judge others’ attitudes, interests, and needs less accurately. One survey found that high-power professors made less accurate judgments about the attitudes of low-power professors than those low-power professors made about the attitudes of their more powerful colleagues. Power imbalances may even help explain the finding that older siblings don’t perform as well as their younger siblings on theory-of-mind tasks, which assess one’s ability to construe the intentions and beliefs of others.

Power even prompts less complex legal reasoning in Supreme Court justices. A study led by Stanford psychologist Deborah Gruenfeld compared the decisions of U.S. Supreme Court justices when they wrote opinions endorsing either the position of a majority of justices on the bench—a position of power—or the position of the vanquished, less powerful minority. Sure enough, when Gruenfeld analyzed the complexity of justices’ opinions on a vast array of cases, she found that justices writing from a position of power crafted less complex arguments than those writing from a low-power position.

 

Hence, it seems, the skills most important to obtaining power and leading effectively are the very skills that deteriorate once we have power. In order to answer the question above, we must first clarify the definition of power. I particularly like the way power is defined in the science of psychology because it applies across relationships, contexts, and cultures. In psychological science, power is defined as one’s capacity to alter another person’s condition or state of mind by providing or withholding resources—such as food, money, knowledge, and affection—or administering punishments, such as physical harm, job termination, or social ostracism. This definition de-emphasizes how a person actually acts, and instead stresses the individual’s capacity to affect others.

 

This brings us to the third trait of the Dark Triad, psychopathy. There is a wealth of evidence, which clearly demonstrates that having power makes people more likely to act like sociopaths. High-power individuals are more likely to interrupt others, to speak out of turn, or to avoid looking at others who are speaking. They are also more likely to tease friends and colleagues in a hostile and humiliating fashion. Surveys of organizations find that some typical rude behavior such as shouting, using profanities, or shaming type of criticism are most often acts of individuals in positions of power.

Research by Dacher Keltner has found that many individuals with power tend to behave like patients with damaged orbitofrontal lobes (the region of the brain’s frontal lobes behind the eye sockets); A neurological condition causing overly impulsive and insensitive behavior. Psychopaths display lack of empathy and socially inappropriate behavior in addition to harmful forms of aggression.

 

When separated into traits as we have done here, the use of power as we have demonstrated here, doesn’t look that appealing. However, in society, we have had many examples of “powerful” people with the ENTJ personality type known as “the commander” who have been very “successful” at what they were tasked to do because they had a strong following of believers; Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Jeffery Dahmer, Winston Churchill, Jack Welsh, Steve Jobs, Martha Stewart. But why are these personality types, which may normally look appalling given power? We believe the answer lies in the fact that as humans we are attracted to controversy or radicalism even if it’s not good for us. The most “influential” leaders as mentioned above, armed with their manipulation, thirst for power, and lack of empathy, are often found reinforcing ideals for mockery and anger during times of mass weakness and despair. Only this type of leader is able to fulfill a tribe’s hunger for power because they bring with them a false sense of security. This serves a symbiotic relationship for the leader as well because the surrender of power by the followers, feeds the narcissism, machiavillianism and psychopathy of the leader that much more. It serves as a cyclical infinite process.

Although as humans we naturally strive for power, those with the above traits thirst for it in an insatiable way and if the environment calls for it, they are in the most desirable habitat to become more and more powerful. In the famed Stanford Prison Experiment, psychologist Philip Zimbardo randomly assigned Stanford undergraduates to act as prison guards or prisoners—an extreme kind of power relation. The prison guards quickly descended into the purest forms of power abuse, psychologically torturing their peers, the prisoners. Similarly, anthropologists have found that cultures where rape is prevalent and accepted tend to be cultures with deeply entrenched beliefs in the supremacy of men over women.

So when Jack Welsh was typifying his managers, he wasn’t necessarily referring to their work ethics but rather to their personality types. In a recent study on representative German businesses, narcissism was positively linked to salary, while Machiavellianism was positively linked to leadership level and career satisfaction. These associations were still significant even after controlling for the effects of demographics, job tenure, organization size, and hours worked.

Previously, an impressive 15-year longitudinal study found that individuals with psychopathic and narcissistic characteristics gravitated towards the top of the organizational hierarchy and had higher levels of financial attainment. In line with those findings, according to some estimates, the base rate for clinical levels of psychopathy is three times higher among corporate boards than in the overall population. This is also consistent with earlier conceptualizations of psychopathy among businessmen.

 

 

Instead of succumbing to the Machiavellian worldview—which unfortunately leads us to select Machiavellian leaders—we must promote a different model of power, one rooted in social intelligence, responsibility, and cooperation.

 

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said the British historian Lord Acton. Based on what we know now, this is not entirely a myth. Power encourages individuals to act on their own whims, desires, and impulses. But thankfully new scholarship is bringing fresh subtlety to psychologists’ understanding, clarifying that power doesn’t have to corrupt everyone because it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. In fact, for some people, power seems to bring out their best. In a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, DeCelles and her co-authors found people’s sense of “moral identity”, the degree to which they thought it was important to their sense of self to be “caring,” “compassionate,” “fair,” “generous” shaped their exercise and response to power. Among the 195 subjects, while primed to think of themselves as powerful, the people with low moral-identity scores grabbed 7.5 points—and those with high moral-identity scores took only about 5.5. In other words, with the high moral identity group, power led them to take a broader, more communally centered perspective.

 

Another experiment involving adults found a similar relationship between moral identity, ethical behavior and innate aggressiveness. Assertive people who scored low on the moral-identity scale were more likely to say they’d cheated their employer in the past week than more passive types with similar moral-identity scores. But among those with high moral-identity scores, the assertive people were less likely to have cheated. In sum, the study found, power doesn’t corrupt; it heightens pre-existing ethical values.

 

So, in practicing power and surrendering it, it is imperative that we are ever vigilant against the corruptive influences of power and it’s ability to distort our views of humility and treatment of others. The goals is also remain critical in challenge myths about power, which persuade us to choose the wrong kinds of leaders and to tolerate gross abuses of power.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Would you say that Trump’s proclamation Patriotic Day of Devotion, which was made official on Monday, and previously uttered by Kim Jong-un in speeches to his 1.2 million-strong military and members of the ruling Korean Workers’ party echoes those of Dark Triad Leaders prior?

 

images-4We know that using a one-size-fits-all approach will not create the kind of buy-in needed to get the total organization working together.  In addition we know that to be competitive, the offer has to be branded consistently but also to fit a need.  

 

So what separates between the need to standardize vs. the need to customize?  

Research conducted by Jaynie L. Smith for the book Creating Competitive Advantage, states that only two CEOs out of 1,000 surveyed could clearly define their company’s competitive advantage.  A new wave in customization is the use of data analytics. Where it would take years and years of research to create and market the next generation of a service or product, can now be obtained within a few seconds. Case in point, car manufacturers are gathering more data than ever to eliminate waste and improve efficiency as they try to create next-generation vehicles. In 2012, Mercedes-AMG began to deploy an in-memory platform across business functions to analyze large amounts of data in real time. The goal for Mercedes-AMG was not to quickly deliver data, it was to deliver information that can improve processes that lead to competitive advantage.

Another example is that of content advertising. Today, more people than ever are watching digital video on hand-held devices and laptops, meaning that each viewer can customize what they watch, and when. The amount of user-generated content has also exploded, fragmenting viewers among many markets and making it tricky at best for brand advertisers to get the biggest bang for their buck. This shift in viewer habits has caused huge disruptions to the traditional advertising model.

For many people, real luxury is about ordering bespoke items with heaps of customization. These are made either entirely for them or simply not available to anyone else because they are completely unique creations. In times of computer controlled production real craftsmanship has gone lost. The McDonalds of the world are now far and between.  Starbucksimages-3 is the McDonnalds of today.  Perfecting that Latte to the dot within a few minutes with a mass customization approach of adding the hazelnut, soy, or skim details.  Because of the downturn in the economy even with a limited budget, people are no longer willing to settle.  Whether using professional services, or products such as, food, luxury goods, travel or any other, there is virtually no competition, and size doesn’t matter if you are able to offer a product/service that is needed, and unique. The global economy calls for customization and only customization and only organizations that are able to deliver customization with a mass formula can do well.

Business leaders should not become overwhelmed by the amount of data. The key is to identity important information and gain insight to improve business operations. Finding your brand, defining it to the core, and delivering it uniquely to your unique customer is the overall value proposition.  Is it a coincidence that the word Customer is a derivative of the word Customization?

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You are probbaly wondering what does Ebola have to do with your career, other than the fact that god forbid you somehow contracted the illness and had to be in quarentine, etc. etc. 

No, that is not where we are going with this.  Although the Ebola virus in our eyes as human being and victims of the disease is a deadly virus and it reality it is a very smart and calculated being.  Here is what we already know about the Ebola Virus:

1.  It knows it’s purpose and has done it successfully and consistently since the 70’s

2.  It thrives hosted within a familiar and trusted environment

3.  It is a national and  international sensation and it knows it

4.  It knows how to blend in and when to flare up

4.  It has great longevity (referring to its ability to sustain itself)

5.  It has has upward mobility (currently being the biggest epidemic in history)

Again what does this have to do with your career?  As a practicing industrial/organizational psychologist, a coach and a trusted advisor, I have had the pleasure of working with so many professionals and one of the chief complaints I have heard regardless of status, number of years of experience, education, or pay has been “I don’t know where my career is headed”.  Beyond the obvious human condition of not having a crystal ball and not being to unfortunately foretell the future, the truth of the matter is that you have more power and control over your career than you may think or willing to admit to.  Well, what if you considered your ambitions the Ebola Virus?  Not in a negative way, so this exercise takes a bit of reframing your original mind frame.  Rather, viewing your career goals as a push forward, “nay” resistant, calculated, has a life of its own creature?  Now look at the 5 items above and read them from the perspective of your job and career.

There is a “science” to herding your career and advancing your goals in the work arena.  It is true that with the world of globalization, technology and unprecedented layoffs, predictability is definitely not what it used to be.  However, risk management applies to money management and finances 10, 20, or even 30 years down the line, so why can’t your career follow suite?  But it can.  Between emotional intelligence, careful and planned training, and network building we have got you covered.  We counsel career professionals, executives and the c-suite on these matters daily, so take a comfortable seat and lend and ear.

1) Find a familiar host and/or trusted environment

It’s true. It’s who you know, not what you have accomplished. Many people do not want to believe this simple but unspoken rule about life and work because it means the hardest working, most creative, most dedicated people are not necessarily going to get the next promotion.

This means that unless you have  a good relationship with key people directly or at least indirectly,  you will not get ahead no matter how hard you work, no matter what your accomplishments are.

The person who will get the next big promotion or the next big job opportunity will be someone who knows the boss better than you do, someone who has more face time with the boss, and someone who the boss has better chemistry with.

People climb up the ladder and/or get recognized because the boss feels they can be trusted to do the job, to follow thoroughly, and to be a loyal supporter. You may be all of these, but unless you can communicate that clearly, no one will know.  Prior accomplishments are often not the main consideration.  I have often coached individuals who feel discouraged that they are getting passed on opportunities.  After further inquiry I have almost always gotten to know that there is always a counter part who gets recognition after recognition, and promotion after promotion.  When I inquire why they believe the other individual keeps getting ahead, their response is “I don’t know, to me it seems that all the person does is a lot of talking”.  My response “thank you, I am  Sure they are very articulate and very well spoken, but comparing their track record to you, you don’t see all the hoopla?  The trust upper management places on an individual is usually not necessarily correlational to the numbers.  Given today’s economical conditions, that is usually a requirement rather than a plus.  Upper management puts trust on the individual who toots the company’s horn, their team’s horn, and supports the boss’s agenda whether through an added skill(more on this below), or presentation, etc.

2) Be a national and an international sensation and know your worth

On the opposite side, I have worked with individuals who are constantly looking for the next opportunity and pushing the bar against their own self  What’s their secret? When I observed these individuals closely, I often notice that they never pass up an opportunity to market themselves. Yet they do it so subtlety, that most people either don’t notice, or are not turned off or annoyed by it.

Whenever there was a large meeting with both peers and superiors, this person would find a way to get everyone’s attention. Then, while discussing the current topic she would ever so slightly mention something what she and her team had just accomplished. However small, she would somehow show a connection between that accomplishment,  and the topic at hand.  In this way, every accomplishment was highlighted to management.

For further examples you may refer to the book How to Guerrilla Market Yourself and Get What You Deserve by Jay Levinson and Seth Godin. Once you get used to doing this, it becomes so natural and almost subliminal in it’s effect.

So the tip here is to make sure upper management, other branches, or locations know what your contributions and accomplishments are, and do it in a subtle way if possible.  Don’t rely on your boss to broadcast this, Be your Own Messanger.

3) Know your purpose and stick to it

If you have read any of the material on this web site you know by now how important it is to do the work you were cut out to do. It’s hard to be passionate and committed to doing work that does not utilize your natural talents and your personal competitive advantage. Spend 15 to 20 minutes everyday and take an inventory of your passions and talents and see which ones you are constantly nurturing.  A part of our Career Planning Program is the discover y of “what types of work you were truly meant to do”.

4) Know when to blend in and when to “flare up”

Disagreeing with upper management or anyone for a matter of fact in front of other people is simply not smart. Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends clearly states that “no one likes criticism”.  No matter how close you and the other individual are and how right you think you are, never disagree with them in public, even if they invite you to. Instead, learn to become a valuable advisor and yes to the boss especially. Here’s how…

If you disagree with the boss, wait until you two have a private moment and then explain your viewpoint. Then, at the end say “Thanks for listening to me. I really appreciate the opportunity to be heard. You are the boss, and I am a loyal soldier so I will do it your way. “

Why? Even the most confident boss will have doubts about himself. So while he / she does not need you undermining his/her credibility, there is an underlying achiever there that will appreciate “Constructive criticism”. Bosses want to see that everyone is in alignment and following them. So doing any  dissension is really a disservice to them but ultimately to your career.

If you really want to get ahead, anticipate future issues and possible disagreements and discuss them in private, ahead of time. In this way you become a trusted advisor to the boss. This will build trust and demonstrate loyalty.

I once had an employee who used this skill with me many times. He would come into my office and say something like this: “There is going to be a meeting later today and I expect this issue to come up. I just want to give you a heads up. Here is my perspective… and here is the opposing view…”

Eventually I learned to trust this person and I felt we made a great team. I would frequently seek out his opinion before making critical decisions. So I know first hand that this process does work.

5) Create upward mobility by filling a Gap In a Skill Set

Through observation, research and record keeping you can connect dots in others behaviors and learn how to connect with them .  One of the facets of Emotional Intelligence, and also the best way to get close to key people in the organization  and to make yourself truly valuable. If done well, this will truly benefit the organization.

All of us have Achilles, some that we recognize and others we might not be aware of. The key is to understand the strengths and challenges of those around us  and see if we can somehow fill the gap.  I observed this in one organization where the boss was not very strategic, and his position did require that he provide direction and vision to the organization. One astute direct report figured this out and made a point of regularly communicating with the boss and coming to him with strategic ideas, vision and direction. The executive adopted many of these ideas and they became his own and that of the entire organization.

Once you have fulfilled  a need missing within a superior and it is noticed, you are branded in their mind, and even the organization if you go about it smartly.  That goes beyond all other hard skills you possess.

To understand the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and others, all you need to do is pay attention and observe patterns.

 

 Many of the viruses and diseases of our past have been eradicated by measurement.  To eradicate the Ebola virus as well, careful assessment of its patterns of behavior will be key.  Through measurement, we will establish a pattern of behavior, and condition the infection to fall on its face.

 

 

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